What To Expect When Facing Human Smuggling Charges as a Truck Driver

Overhead view of tens of multicolored trucks waiting for a border control checkpoint.

Human smuggling charges are serious offenses that can mean spending decades in state and federal prisons if convicted. Texas is tough on truckers accused of human smuggling and has become even more tough since the introduction of the “Texas Hold ‘Em” initiative back in the fall of 2020.

When facing human smuggling charges as a truck driver, you can expect rigorous legal scrutiny, detailed investigation of your activities, revocation of your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and potentially severe legal consequences including hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment if found guilty.

Today, Javier Guzman, a federal defense lawyer in the state and founding attorney of Guzman Law Firm, is here to talk all about what truck drivers can expect if they are facing charges of human smuggling.

What is a human smuggling charge in Texas?

Human smuggling charges are actually called smuggling of persons in Texas, which are found in Texas Penal Code § 20.05. According to § 20.05, a person commits a smuggling of persons offense if they knowingly: 

  • Use a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other means of conveyance to transport an individual with the intent to
    • conceal the individual from a peace officer or special investigator; or
    • flee from a person the actor knows is a peace officer or special investigator attempting to lawfully arrest or detain the actor;
  • Encourage or induce a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection; or
  • Assists, guide, or direct two or more individuals to enter or remain on agricultural land without the effective consent of the owner.

Human smuggling charges rarely occur at only the state level, however, and there is also a federal statute under which people accused of human smuggling can be (and often are) charged. 

What is the federal statute for human smuggling?

The federal laws on harboring illegal immigrants are found in 8 U.S. Code § 1324, where many different human smuggling offenses are outlined. 

  • Harboring illegal aliens applies to bringing someone into the US, transporting someone within the US, concealing someone from detection either in a vehicle or on private property, or encouraging someone to come to the US.
  • Aiding and abetting occurs when you aid or abet any of the above charges for harboring. You can be charged even if you were trying to help someone in desperate circumstances by driving them somewhere or housing them on your property. 
  • Conspiracy to do any of the above acts can also see you charged under the federal statute for human smuggling. 

If you bring someone illegally into the country, help someone to do so, or conspire to do so, you can be charged under either the state or federal statute for human smuggling, both of which have equally severe consequences. 

The difference between smuggling and trafficking can be thought of in this way: human smuggling is a crime against the state, while human trafficking is a crime against the person. Human smuggling is the act of assisting someone in entering the country illegally, while human trafficking entails some form of forced labor, usually of a sexual nature, that will take place after a person has been transported. 

Is alien smuggling a felony?

Yes. Alien smuggling is always a felony under both Texas and federal law. Although the severity of the charges will depend on the circumstances of your arrest and which statute you are being charged under, there will always be exorbitant fines and lengthy jail sentences at stake for any human smuggling crime. 

In general, human smuggling charges will be more severe when you act for profit than they are when you aren’t acting for profit. They are also much more severe if anyone being smuggled is injured or dies during the process.

What is the minimum punishment for smuggling of persons?

What is the penalty for smugglers in Texas? Human smuggling cases are always felonies in Texas, even first-time alien smuggling cases are felonies with incredibly steep penalties. The punishments for smuggling of persons under Texas Penal Code § 20.05 are as follows:

OffenseChargeMaximum fineMaximum prison sentence
Smuggling not-for-profitThird-degree felony$250,000Up to 5 years
Smuggling for profit Second-degree felony$250,000Up to 10 years
Smuggling involving serious bodily injury Second-degree felony$250,000Up to 20 years
Smuggling involving deathFirst-degree felony$250,000Life in prison

However, truck drivers accused of human smuggling may face additional non-criminal penalties, like revocation of their Commercial Driver’s Licenses and inability to find a job within the industry — things that can affect you before you’ve even been convicted!

What is the “Texas Hold ‘Em” initiative?

The “Texas Hold ‘Em” initiative signals a collaborative effort between the U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety to limit human smuggling on the border between the US and Mexico. 

In addition to the enhanced security and communication between law enforcement agencies, the initiative underlines an effort to educate and inform drivers in the transportation industry about both the dangers of human smuggling and the incredibly steep consequences. 

Furthermore, under “Texas Hold ‘Em,” a driver convicted of a smuggling offense, whether that be alien or narcotic smuggling, will be disqualified from holding a Commercial Driver’s License for life

Facing human smuggling charges as a truck driver? Call Guzman Law Firm for the support you need.

Truck drivers facing human smuggling charges in Texas could not only be facing the end of their careers but of their lives, as they know it. While the situation may be dire, if you drive a truck and have been accused of human smuggling you should know that there is still hope.

An arrest is not a conviction, but the prosecution is currently working on the case against you in an attempt to turn it into one. The best thing that you can do for your future is to hire a human smuggling lawyer who can develop a strong defense, and protect your rights during this incredibly vulnerable time. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested under suspicion of human smuggling, call Guzman Law Firm today at (956) 516-7198 or contact us online to set up a free consultation and begin defending your life. 

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